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Endometriosis through the eyes of traditional chinese medicine.

Endometriosis is a condition suffered by women of various backgrounds, race and age. The word endometriosis is derived from "endometrium", or the lining inside of a woman's uterus. Endometriosis occurs when the lining somehow makes its way outside of the uterus. Generally, it is found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and ligaments supporting the uterus, although it can occur in a number of different locations. The lining is not shed during menstruation, as is the lining inside of the uterus. This condition may inflame surrounding tissues, causing symptoms ranging from abdominal pain to infertility.

Treatments for endometriosis are as varied as the disease itself. Some Western treatments of endometriosis involve hormonal therapy or even surgery. For many women, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers an alternative to invasive or otherwise uncomfortable procedures. My own experiences suggest that acupuncture and Chinese herbs are more effective and much less unpleasant and dangerous than hormonal treatments or surgery to treat endometriosis. Some women may require surgical approaches for treatment of endometriosis. However, it makes sense to try to obtain relief with Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment.

Clinical Manifestation

The symptoms or signs of endometriosis are numerous, with varying degrees of pain and severity. Some of the more common symptoms include:

A) painful menstruation; often beginning one to two days preceding the menstrual cycle (also known as secondary or progressive dysmenorrhea) and including severe pain on the first day of menstruation. This pain recurs and becomes more severe month after month. Also common is distention and pain in the middle of the lower abdomen and lumbar-sacral region.

B) irregular, absent or prolonged menstrual cycle.

C) infertility; although not present in all cases, endometriosis can result in infertility.

D) painful intercourse; 30-40 percent of patients suffering from endometriosis report pain during intercourse.

E) fatigue.

F) painful urination and increased bowel movements during menstruation.

G) other gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.

Differential Diagnosis

The symptoms that characterize endometriosis are similar to many other conditions. Before one is diagnosed with endometriosis, it is important to distinguish between this and other diseases, such as the rotating, twisting or turning of ovarian cysts or chronic Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).

Generally, endometriosis cannot be diagnosed in a simple pelvic exam. The most common and precise manner in which endometriosis is diagnosed is through the use of laparoscopy. This is a surgical procedure involving the insertion of a lighted tube through the navel, allowing the surgeon to view the inside of the abdomen.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Endometriosis

Traditional Chinese Medicine, a system of health care that originated in China about 2500 years ago, teaches that endometriosis is primarily caused by blood stasis, or rather slow or decreased blood circulation. Blood stasis is caused by many external and internal factors that occur during and around the time of menstruation. Occasionally, blood stasis is a result of improper retaining of blood in the abdominal cavity after surgery. TCM also teaches that endometriosis is not a disease operating alone. The body must be seen as a whole, with each organ depending on another. Think of chain reaction: all factors must be present and functioning properly in order for the reaction to occur. According to TCM, the kidney and the liver are two of the most vital organs affecting a woman's reproductive system.

Regarded as the foundation for growth and development before birth, the kidneys contain the genetic blueprint for the next generation. The balance between kidney Yin and Yang is linked to the quality of egg production and plays an important part in conception.

The liver is a principal organ responsible for maintaining the circulation of Qi throughout the body. TCM teaches that a harmonious balance between the liver and kidneys plays a key role in facilitating successful ovulation and subsequent conception. When endometriosis is present, these organs cannot function properly or ward off diseases as healthy organs might.

Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments for endometriosis attempt to increase circulation and rid the body of blood stasis by smoothing the channel, or pathway, supplying blood to the body. This treatment often uses Chinese herbs. Herbs such as pangolin scales, cinnamon twigs, fennel seed, and lindera have remarkable blood or Qi regulating properties. In addition, herbs such as corydal, corydalis, mastic, myrrh, and bupleurum offer strong pain-relieving properties. Another TCM method of treating endometriosis is acupuncture. Acupuncture has been known to be extremely successful in reducing pain from endometriosis. Acupuncture applies needles on certain points which will influence the nervous system, organ functions, and the endocrine system, and further alters and balances the body's hormones.

Finally, TCM treatment is particularly successful in-restoring Qi movement and especially tonifying the kidney. This can be done with Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture or Tui Na. Tui Na is an ancient Chinese form of massage, meaning to grasp and pull. All these are excellent ways to relieve the pain associated with painful symptoms of endometriosis.

Dr. Li Du is member of The American Association of Oriental Medicine and licensed in acupuncture in Georgia. She's currently teaching and practicing at Edgewood College of Georgia, School of Oriental Medicine. Please call for more information: 770-451-3006 or 678-637-1185.
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Title Annotation:Women's Health
Author:Du, Li
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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